Award Year: 2020

Montecito Union Elementary School

385 San Ysidro Road
Santa Barbara, CA, 93108-2131

(805) 969-3249

Dr. Nicholas Bruski, Principal at time of Nomination

Montecito Union Elementary

School Website

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To launch inspired thinkers who positively impact the world.

Student Demographics
  • White: 80%
  • Hispanic: 11%
  • Native American: 1%
  • Two or more races: 7%
The front steps of Montecito Union School

The front steps of Montecito Union School

Montecito Union School (MUS) is a K-6 school located in Santa Barbara County, California that seeks to launch inspired thinkers who positively impact the world. Its staff works hard to create a culture where thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted. Through extensive work with Harvard's Project Zero, Columbia University's workshop curricula, and Costa and Kallick's Habits of Mind, MUS empowers students to be critical thinkers and empathetic citizens, solve complex problems, and persevere through challenges.

Staff at MUS seek to integrate learning as much as possible and it is often unclear if a class is engaged in reading, writing, math, science or social studies. Units of study incorporate many curricular areas so that learning does not happen in silos, and students see connections between all that they are learning. We provide many opportunities for hands on learning and big, rich problems where solutions are not readily apparent so that students engage in complex problem solving and productive struggle.

In addition to traditional academics, MUS students receive a robust and well-rounded education with weekly specialists including art, music, physical education, library and Spanish. Furthermore, the school continues to grow in STEAM expertise and experiences. Physical spaces include a well-equipped science lab, an innovation lab with cutting-edge maker technology, an outdoor science exploration center, and the current development of a nature lab where students will engage in biodynamic/regenerative agriculture, nature-inspired making and arts collaboration, and seeing the environment as an agent of challenge and wonder.